The moment we receive beginning instruction in zazen, we sit down, cross our legs and in that moment we are directing ourselves to the true nature of things. That is suchness. Yet if this truth is already present, manifesting in the ten thousand things, how can we direct ourselves to it? How do we create the illusion that it is not manifest? That’s where practice occurs. Practice only exists, in a sense, when we are not directing ourselves to it, when we are not being the person who is it, who is thusness, because in that moment we’re attached. The instruction is to “see the thought, and let it go,” but there’s still something there.
To direct ourselves straight ahead is to see that which clouds our clarity, because clarity is our natural state of mind. That’s why the pointer says, “Closing the door and sleeping is the way to receive those of highest potential; looking, reflecting, stretching is a roundabout way for the middling and lesser.” Looking, reflecting, seeking, practicing is all based on the belief that we’re not “such a person,” that the object in front of us blocking our way exists, that the thought that we’re tangled in is real, that the anger I feel toward you is justified. This is why he says it is a “roundabout way for the middling and lesser.” When we’re no longer turned around by the appearance of things, when we’ve realized that self-nature and buddha-nature are one, then “closing the door and sleeping,” our everyday actions in and of themselves, are the true expression of this dharma.
“The Dharma of the King of Dharma is thus,” says Manjushri. What is he saying? After Manjushri said that, the Buddha stood up and walked away. The talk was over. So what did he present, what did he teach? The Buddha was just sitting there getting ready to give a talk and Manjushri made this proclamation: clearly observe the dharma of the Buddha. The dharma of the Buddha is thus. The talk was completed, but what was the talk? What dharma did the Buddha present? Every talk is adding flowers to brocade. The brocade is already complete, why add flowers to it? Each and every moment is, just as it is, completely sufficient and perfect; why talk about it? Yet what is just as it is? What is meant by complete and perfect? How is a moment of great anguish perfect? How is poverty or domestic violence an expression of perfection? The perfection of the moment, of all the many things, includes everything—nothing is missing. From this realization, where nothing is disregarded, the intimate experience of injustice and suffering occur, and right action takes place. This is why wisdom and compassion are one undivided reality.
The verse: The unique breeze of reality— do you see? If every single thing, every person possesses this breeze of reality, why is it unique? What is this breeze that permeates the universe? No wall can stop it, it neither enters nor departs. It stands alone, all one, nothing outside. Continuously creation runs her loom and shuttle. Weaving the ancient brocade, incorporating the forms of spring. The commentary says, “Mother of evolution and creator are different names for the creation of beings. Confucianism and Taoism are based on one energy. The buddhaharma is based on one mind. As the woof goes through the warp, the weave is dense and fine. A continuous thread comes from the shuttle making every detail.”
Each moment, the loom and shuttle are in motion; creation arises, persists and passes away. Worlds are born, empires are built and defended, then they turn to dust. All of reality is mind—a unique breeze, an ancient brocade—always incorporating the forms of spring. Each and every thing possesses spring, the mind of Buddha. As heaven and earth arise, spring arises, inseparable from the splendor that is this incredible earth, that is our life itself. So it is that Hongzhi ends his verse with, But nothing can be done about Manjushri’s leaking. What is his leaking? Speaking about it just complicates the matter. Yet, because of compassion Manjushri speaks, so that you and I can realize this dharma for ourselves
Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei is vice-abbot and resident teacher of Zen Center of New York City: Fire Lotus Temple and head of the National Buddhist Prison Sangha. He received dharma transmission from Daido Roshi in 1997.